Cooking & Cookware
Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide

Home

Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Cooking and Cookware:

This section describes methods of cooking, cookware and utensils used and sanitation or lack there-of as described by the men themselves. 

◊◊ 

"When it was thought cooked by the old voyageurs, preparations were made to dish it out; but, as we had no pans, a clean place was looked for on the grass, and the contents of the kettle were poured out."   Charles Larpenteur in Forty Years a Fur Trader

◊◊

"Their food is boiled in watape kettles, a mode common to all the aborigines throughout the continent. The process is simple, and similar to that practiced by the Chinooks and other tribes along the Pacific. The dish or kettle being placed on the ground, and nearly filled with water, the meat, fish, or other viand, is cut or torn into small pieces, and after being put into the kettle, some heated stones, by the help of wooden tongs, are immediately thrown in also, which is no sooner done than the water in the dish is in a state of ebullition. After a few minutes' boiling the stones are taken out and instantly replaced by others, also red hot, which second set generally suffices to complete the process. The contents are then served up, and each individual receives his portion on a piece of bark or mat. The broth, in which the food is boiled, is likewise carefully dealt round with a wooden ladle into bark or wooden dishes, and is, with all the ashes and dirt incident to the process, considered as the most delicious part of the repast. Their culinary vessels are seldom washed or cleaned. The dog's tongue is the only dish-cloth known."  Described by Alexander Ross in 1810.

◊◊

"For the edification of the reader, who has no doubt some curiosity on the subject, I will briefly mention, that the kitchen and table ware of the trader usually consists of a skillet, a frying pan, a sheet-iron camp-kettle, a coffee pot, and each man with his tin cup and a butcher's knife. The culinary operations being finished, the pan and kettle are set upon the grassy turf, around which all take a 'lowly seat,' and crack their gleesome jokes, while from their greasy hands they swallow their savory viands all with a relish rarely experienced at the well-spread table of the most fashionable and wealthy citizen."  In Commerce of the Prairie by Josiah Gregg.

◊◊

". . . . .  and our culinary articles, which were few and simple; consisting of three tin cups, a coffee-pot -- one plate -- a frying-pan -- and a tin kettle."  From the Letters of George Catlin

◊◊

“Near this lake Mr. Hubbard found the nest of a ruffed grouse containing five eggs.  These our cook used in making our galette, thereby giving us quite a treat.  This galette is the only form of bread used on a voyage, that is, when voyageurs are so fortunate as to have any flour at all.  It is made of a very simple style:-the flour bag is opened, and a small hollow made in the flour, into which a little water is poured, and the dough is thus mixed in the bag; nothing is added, except, perhaps some dirt from the cook’s unwashed hands, with which he kneads it into flat cakes, which are baked before the fire in a frying pan or cooked in grease.... There is no denying that voyageurs are not apt to be very cleanly, either in their persons or in their cooking.”  From observations of Robert Kennicott as published in Nute.  

◊◊

Back to the Top
Back to Everyday Living